Sapoval also stressed that the research is still experimental and that the procedure should only be done by interventional radiologists on carefully screened patients in controlled research and academic settings.
The research was scheduled to be presented Monday at the Society of Interventional Radiology's 36th annual scientific meeting in Chicago.
"If the results are confirmed, it will be a frequent procedure," Sapoval said. "If further trials show that patients with less severe hypertension can benefit also, the number of patients will be huge."
Why renal denervation works is not entirely clear, Sapoval said, but it appears to dampen overactivity of the sympathetic nervous system, which can trigger high blood pressure.
About 25 percent of American adults have high blood pressure, most of which has no known cause, said Dr. Kirk Garratt, clinical director of interventional cardiovascular research at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City.
"If this technique works, I believe it will be used first in patients with very, very difficult blood pressure issues," Garratt said. "Blood pressure trouble is extraordinarily common, and the cumulative cost measured by the cost of medications alone is very substantial. But . . . poor control drives up the cost of health care overall."
Described as minimally invasive, renal denervation may be an outpatient procedure if it becomes commonplace, which could happen in several years, Garratt said.
"It's a very novel and advanced technique, but the technical aspect would be familiar and easily adopted," he said.
Dr. Barry Cohen, medical director of the catheter laboratory at Gagnon Cardiovascular Institute at Morristown Memorial Hospital in New Jersey, called the study participants'
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